With yet another brilliant start in a 4-1 win in Tampa Bay on Friday night, Giants’ starter Madison Bumgarner made a little bit of franchise history. The lanky lefty is currently on a nine-start streak of pitching at least seven innings while allowing two earned runs or less. That stands as the second-longest in franchise history, behind Ferdie Schupp of the then New York Giants, who had 12 such starts between the 1916 and 1917 seasons. This impressive streak has not only produced the lowest ERA of Bumgarner’s young careeer (2.69), but it’s also planted the 24-year-old firmly in the middle of the Cy Young race.
The Giants’ de facto ace is showing no signs of slowing down either, especially after tying his season-high in strikeouts with 11 against a baffled Rays lineup. He was clinical with slider, throwing the pitch a season-high 53 times with an impressive 35 of those tosses going for strikes. That’s been par for the course for Bumgarner this season because no pitcher in baseball favors his slider as much as the Giants’ lefty.
There have been 625 games in the illustrious history of the World Series and just 4 men have ever hit 3 home runs in a game. The list of players to accomplish the feat is predictably littered with all-time great Hall of Fame type talent: Babe Ruth, perhaps the greatest player to ever don a pair of cleats, Reggie Jackson, otherwise known as Mr. October, and Albert Pujols, a player whose enshrinement into Cooperstown will occur precisely 5 years following his retirement. Well after last nights power display, now you can add one more name to that prestigious list: Pablo Sandoval, the Kung Fu Panda.
Major League Baseball fans everywhere should be a bunch of happy campers today. We’ve been blessed by the Baseball Gods with a star-studded World Series match-up between the American League champion Detroit Tigers and the National League champion San Francisco Giants. There is MVP and Cy Young hardware all over the place in this series. We have the presumptive 2012 MVP winners in Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey, seated to your left (although there are MVP arguments for other players, Mike Trout in particular). Over in that corner you have the 2011 AL MVP/Cy Young winner in Justin Verlander. Turn around and you can catch a glimpse of Barry Zito, the 2002 Cy Young winner. Just strolling in the door is Tim Lincecum, the winner of the 2008 and 2009 Cy Young awards in the National League. It’s ridiculous how many big names are in this series, and we haven’t even mentioned the perennial All-Star types like Prince Fielder and Matt Cain. Every single playoff series, except for the ALCS, has been remarkably balanced and has gone the distance this year, and with two evenly matched competitors set to take the diamond tonight, you can expect more evenly matched world-class baseball. Here’s some of what you should be keeping your eye on in the games to come.
With a dominate 9-0 victory yesterday against the St. Louis Cardinals, the San Francisco Giants became just the 6th team in baseball history to overcome a 3 games to 1 deficit in a League Championship Series. Matt Cain helped lead the way, throwing the 3rd consecutive shutdown start in a row for Giants. Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval rapped a couple more hits a piece, and the baseball Gods smiled once again on the zany Hunter Pence, who’s gutty efforts have come to define San Francisco’s comeback mentality. When all the smoke had cleared and Matt Holliday’s infield pop up was sitting safely in the glove of NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro, the celebration was on in San Francisco. By edging out the Cardinals for National League supremacy, the Giants improbably clinched their 2nd World Series berth in 3 seasons, and they have given themselves a shot at another ring. I’ll look ahead to the World Series tomorrow but for now I want to analyze how San Francisco was able advance pass the Cardinals against the odds, and it all goes back to the mid-season pickup of a 36-year-old journeyman shortstop.
The San Francisco Giants were able to eke out a much-needed win over Cincinnati last night to avoid a sweep, keeping their 2012 World Series chances on life support. San Francisco was able to use a familiar formula to get the win as they bled the Cincinnati offense dry while taking advantage of every opportunity and miscue available to gain a hard-fought 2-1 win in 10 innings. The Giant’s scratch-out-just-enough-to-win formula, known to their fans as “Torture”, has proven to be a highly successful way to win for this franchise in particular, and last nights game must have felt a little like 2010 for Giants fans. Only the Dodgers have won more games while scoring 2 or fewer runs than the Giants have over the past 3 seasons, and while it’s not a viable way to consistently win games, it’s nice to know you can get a win when the offense isn’t performing. Last night was no exception as San Francisco struck out 16 times total and mustered just 3 hits. Some other notes from last nights game:
When Johnny Cueto exited stage left after striking out lead-off hitter Angel Pagan, the prevailing sentiment concerning the Cincinnati Reds was that they were in big trouble. Their staff ace had just left an enormous, tone-setting playoff game with back spasms, which meant that Cincinnati’s excellent bullpen would have to carry a large load, which can be unsettling going forward. You never want to waste bullets when you don’t have to, and the Reds were going to have to use a majority of their bullets. To make matters even worse, opposing Cueto on the bump was Giants’ ace Matt Cain, the owner of a 16-5 record, a 2.79 ERA, and a perfect game. Things couldn’t possibly have appeared any worse for the Reds, that is, until Dusty Baker decided to show the world what he has learned over the past couple of seasons.
In 2011 we saw the St. Louis Cardinals use a powerful offense while leaning heavily on a revamped bullpen to roll all the way to a World Series title. Having a strong bullpen for the postseason has never been as important as it has during the past couple of seasons, and for good reason. Pitchers throw fewer innings per outing with each passing year, which means a larger part of the 9 inning burden falls on pitchers who throw no more than 70 innings a season normally. Many of these players will be called upon in situations with enormous ramifications, whether it be to match up with a slugger like Joey Votto or to get out of a bases loaded jam. Let’s take a look at which teams’ bullpens are best prepared to enter the war of attrition known as October baseball.